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Town Board unanimously approves purchase of three downtown buildings

The Riverhead Town Board voted unanimously on Tuesday voted to purchase three buildings on East Main Street in downtown for $5.5 million.

The purchases are part of an overall plan to create a town square by the downtown riverfront, as official plan to remove two of the three buildings to create a vista from Main Street to the Peconic River.

The purchase is subject to a permissive referendum, which means residents who oppose the buy can collect signatures on a petition and force a public vote on the issue.

The petition must be submitted within 30 days of the adoption of the resolution approving the purchase and must be signed by at least 5 percent of the total voters in the town during that last governor election.

The town is looking to buy properties at 117, 121 and 127 East Main Street.

Those buildings currently house Twin Forks Bicycles, the restaurant Craft’d and several other businesses.

The easternmost building is vacant and will be demolished. The town also planned to demolish the building leased to Twin Forks Bicycle, but the Craft’d building will not be demolished, officials said.

Town officials say the current leases of those businesses will be honored, and that town will help business owners find new locations. 

The $5.5 million price includes the acquisition costs and the demolition costs.

The cost also will be offset by grant money and “public private” partnerships in which some town-owned land at the site may be sold or leased to private entities. 

“This is something the town has been trying to do for many years,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said. “Get rid of blighted buildings.”

The proposal met with mostly support at a recent public hearing. The opposition came from Manorville residents who felt the town should spend the money on fixing the public water problems in Manorville before building a town square.

The proposed town square is next to the former Swezey’s store, which recently was purchased by the nonprofit Long Island Science Center as its new home, and the former West Marine building, which is owned by builder Wayne Steck, who plans to demolish it and construct apartments there.